Swords and shields don't have much place in modern business — or do they? Byrne Brothers Construction in Allentown, N.J., wants to bring that Old World ethic to today's work environment.

Owner Mark Byrne has adopted Middle Ages chivalry and branded it as a theme for company culture, which he says creates a customer experience filled with integrity. “We are yours to serve with our shield of trust” is the company mission statement. Byrne's family crest, a shield with three hands, palms outward, is the company logo.

The philosophy moves all the way through the ranks at Byrne Brothers. Employees vote on their timesheets for “Knight of the Week,” and at year's end, whoever has served his fellow worker and customer best is dubbed “Knight of the Year.” He's given (for a year) a 4-foot sword, inlaid with gold. The sword's twin hangs in Byrne Brothers' offices, with a plaque engraved with the names of each year's knight.

The idea started when Byrne kept reading in customer questionnaires that integrity and trust were crucial — trust that workers be there on time, trust to have workers in clients' homes, trust that work be properly completed, trust that the job be fairly priced.

Vehicles, business cards, invoices, and letterhead all bear the shield. Byrne signs his letters with “yours to serve.” He builds trust with processes and procedures. For example, clients are called every day to be told what's happening tomorrow.

“It's really not about remodeling,” Byrne says. “It's managing customer emotional needs. And by building trust and embellishing in our men a chivalrous attitude, like knights, to serve their fellow man, we not only manage those needs, we win loyalty.”